VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases
24 FEB 10 CHRIS SLAWECKI
The Quintet's Jazz At Massey Hall (OJC) is famously subtitled "The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever." It's not bragging when you consider The Quintet's members -- Charlie Parker on alto and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet in the front line, with pianist Bud Powell, bassist Charles Mingus, and drummer Max Roach as their rhythm aces.
Both the circumstances and resultant recording have propelled this May 1953 evening into legend. For reasons long forgotten, The New Jazz Society of Toronto somehow managed to assemble this historic quintet, but scheduled their performance for the same night as the Walcott-Marciano heavyweight championship fight, so few people showed up for the show. Parker showed up, but without a saxophone. So he played on a borrowed alto made of plastic.
It's a wonder Parker didn't melt that alto as he burned through the Ellington favorite "Perdido," "Wee," and the machine-gun riffing of Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts," scorching them with hot licks of fire matched by Gillespie's blazing, brilliant trumpet. The evening closed with another Dizzy tune, his enthralling and mysterious "A Night in Tunisia," where Parker craftily heated then reshaped the melody and Diz simply blasted right through it. No ballads, baby.
Jazz At Massey Hall captured Parker's last recording with Gillespie, with Dizzy's star ascending and Bird's sadly headed in the other direction. The trio set played by the rhythm section is also available as the Bud Powell Trio's Jazz at Massey Hall Vol. 2. Is this "The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever?" No other live jazz album has ever really presented conclusive evidence to the contrary.
The Quintet, from Jazz At Massey Hall